Letter to the Editor

Rats: It Takes a Village

To the Editor,

As a friend and I were walking around the splash pad that was being refurbished in The Navy Yard last week, we came upon a dead rat lying next to the surround of the splash pad. Fortunately for us, one of the workers told us he would dispose of the rat, we thanked him.

Speaking of rats, as I was driving down Medford St. a few years ago, I noticed the trash bins were filled to the brim and were uncovered and many of the rusted sides had huge gaping holes. The sea gulls were feasting on the 24 /7 buffet. It gave me pause as to what other creatures had access to this feast? As I was taking pictures, a resident approached me to discuss what I was doing. After a conversation of my concerns that perhaps rats were also enjoying this feast, he brought me over a building that he said were large rat holes burrowed right into the building. I took more pictures.

I contacted the Boston Housing Authority to rectify this situation for the residents and a few trash bins were replaced, Inspectional Services were notified as well. That was a few years ago and driving by the same bins there are the same rusted, uncovered bins filled with trash and the seagulls feasting during the day and who knows what rodents are continuing the feast at night.

Further, it is known that rats carry and transmit more human diseases than any other life form, except maybe the mosquito. If this is the case, then why are the trash receptacles offering these rodents a steady supply of food  and not made more rat proof so that the residents of the Bunker Hill Housing Development and beyond are not subjected to unwanted bites, diseases, and other health issues?

It was reported recently that a new “rat czar” will monitor and deal with the rat problem. In the meantime, we all need to advocate for better maintenance and education regarding all the open bins in our community as rats are outsourcing new foods outlets as we now see here in the Navy Yard. Rats “are on the move” and should be a wake- up call for us all in our one square mile and beyond to not keep providing food and shelter. The welcome mat should be replaced by an unwelcome mat and this rat issue resolved sooner than later.

The ‘voices of Charlestown’ need to be heard by our mayor, elected officials, the Boston Housing Authority, Inspectional Service, and other departments to work together to eradicate this rat epidemic. As an aside, two rats can produce 1250 rats annually.  Do your part and make some calls. This will take a “village” and not just the rat czar to maintain a safe and healthy existence for all.          

Ann Kelleher

HelmNO.com: How Trust Eroded in misinformed Debate

To the Editor,

I’ve been in substance abuse recovery for over a decade. I am grateful for that moment I “hit bottom” and was forced to make hard choices that led to me getting help. It was not the help I wanted, but the help I needed. Had someone offered me a free room back then, I might still be in that room today, all alone, slowly killing myself. Part of the process is helping others and I volunteered to bring group meetings to rehabs, mental hospitals, and prisons. I have friends and loved ones in recovery. Thus, the Constitution Inn Helm on Third project has been on my mind. It is the idea of giving active alleged addicts a free apartment without requiring treatment – it runs deeply against everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve been through.

But when it comes to the Helm, you should not rely solely on personal stories like mine. Ask for data. It is the proponents’ duty to provide evidence backing their plan. Without a factual foundation, our discussions have nothing to stand on. We wasted time arguing over words like “shelter” and “housing.” We expressed concrete fears about needles and drug dealers, and in response we heard vague terms like “services” and “management”. There was talk of a bowling league! With every new meeting, there seems to be less trust and more opposition. And we may be past the point of no return. I don’t see how this project can proceed in any form. It is time to say “no.”

The April 13 presentation came closest to a serious basis during Dr. Jim O’Connell’s brief statement. He called the proposal “really robust.” He caveated with “I realize this is not shared” and said “we have great hope that – whether here or anywhere else – this is exactly the kind of housing that will result in what we think is great success.” I appreciate “hope,” but is there evidence? Is there a randomized trial showing Permanent Supportive Housing improving the health (not “housing retention”) of residents, when implemented at the same scale and in the same kind of neighborhood? I could not find one.

I found data in Dr. O’Connell’s own paper, Housing Boston’s Chronically Homeless Unsheltered Population: 14 Years Later from Med. Care in 2021. They followed 73 people in Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) across Boston. 95% had psychiatric illnesses. 93% had “substance use disorders.” 11% were evicted, but 38% were moved 45 times “to avoid an eviction”. 45% died during the 14-year period. Their conclusion was “low housing retention and poor survival.” The Helm proponents haven’t presented their numbers (better or worse) across these parameters to the community. I helped link this paper, and others like it, to the Research section of charlestownvoice.com. Why did it fall on ordinary residents like me to introduce these metrics into the debate?

What percentage of people get sober after one year of such housing? What percentage increase will there be to crime and police visits to the neighborhood? The city picks up over 200,000 needles off the streets per year. How many more will we see in Charlestown? Who are the “private institutions” lending money to this project? What percentage return do the “investors” expect? How are their financial incentives aligned with our safety and residents’ well-being? We’ve been asking questions since October. Instead of clear and publicly accessible answers, we’ve had opaque “small group meetings.”

In science, the exercise of gathering data in hope of proving a hypothesis is called an “experiment.” In recovery circles, we like to say, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, expecting different results.” The US homeless population remains nearly flat despite 20 years of PSH projects like the Helm. Perhaps future experiments will find the right model for eradicating homelessness. I doubt it will be this model. And surely, it is neither time nor place for this experiment in this neighborhood. The YMCA and the City need to find another use for the building.

To respond to this project with a community-wide “no”, we started an online petition at www.HelmNO.com. There were over 400 signatures in three days. We hope that more of our fellow residents take a moment to read, sign and share it with their families, friends, and neighbors.

Alex Poliakov

Navy Yard Resident and

Charlestown Voice Contributor

Thank You to the Charlestown Community, Charlestown Patriot Bridge

To the Editor,

We want to express our thanks to all who turned out on a chilly Saturday to celebrate Earth Day and joined with friends and members of the community to learn about the issues facing our planet. We also showcased the community support for a public park on the historic Pier 5 for all of Charlestown, Boston and its visitors to enjoy. The children who attended had a wonderful time making giant bubbles, face painting, playing games and enjoying pizza from Spinelli’s and ice cream courtesy of HP Hood.

The Pier 5 Association, Inc. (www.pier5.org) who hosted the event want to thank everyone who participated and acknowledge the generosity of our local donors. Thank you to Allo Playspace, H.P. Hood Ice Cream, Asana Yoga, Rosie and Ed Cardinali of Cycleboat Boston, Cut Splice Hair Salon, Thayer & Associates Management Company, Courageous Sailing, Cambridge Savings Bank, St. John’s Church, and Ken Flynn of the Flynn Insurance Agency.

We also wish to thank the exhibitors who made Earth Day educational, rewarding and fun.

Thanks to Dr. Ricky Stern of “e” inc., science partner of the Pier 5 Association: Laura Kiesel and Massachusetts Audubon Society; NOAA Endangered Species Art Contest; Boston Climate Action Network (BCAN); Museum of Science curricula division; Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition (MYCC); Landry’s Bikes; Bootstrap Composting; Charlestown Nursery; Charlestown Mothers Association Book Exchange; Boston Water for bringing their water truck; Courageous Sailing; Charlestown Boys and Girls Club; The MBTA Mobility Center; Talkin Birds; Charlestown Public Library; Rodentcide; Paul and Rachel Revere: Gail Miller as Rosie the Riveter; local authors Martin Cadene and Nancy Wovers Cadene of “Our Neighbors Have Feathers”; Bob Donahue of Sextant fame: Eco-Man of Eco Enlightened; Dawn Hymers of the Eastern Service Workers Association; budding documentarian Sarah Tarlin of Emerson College; Jane Gricci of Cambridge Savings Bank; Rosemary Macero for seed planting and her signature shellfish “Petting Zoo”; Bruce Lawson, the Bubble Man; and for providing wonderful entertainment throughout the day, the Love Dogs Band.

We were gratified to see our elected officials come and support us: City Councilor, Gabriela Coletta and her Charlestown liaison Elaine Donovan; our councilors-at-large, Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia and Erin Murphy as well as our State Representative, Dan Ryan. Joining us from City Hall was Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of the Environment, Energy and Open Space; Brianna Millor-Hammond, Chief of Community Engagement; Sean Breen, Charlestown’s Liaison; and Christine Maher of the Mayor’s Youth Council. Thank you all for taking the time to join us.

This event would not have been possible without the dedication of our volunteers. Thank you to Ellen Kitsis and Larry Stevens, Michael Kelleher and grandson Toby, Connie and Arthur Gutierrez, Sue Conway and Jim Browne, Laurie Nee, Tanya Guidi, Tony Troiano and his son Alex, Jen Bodde and Courageous Sailing Center for loaning us their tables, Charlene Colt, Maureen Reilly, Bob and Diane O’Leary and their son, and Nancy and Peter Maher.

And to Marian Tse for manning the table to raise funds for our local food pantry, Harvest on Vine, and to Mary Ann Foley for showcasing the Harvard Kent School Leadership and Scholarship Partnership. Thank you to all who contributed to these worthwhile organizations.

Thank you to the Patriot Bridge for covering our event and a special shout out to the Boston Fire Department and Lt. Hank Perkins, Sheriff Steven Tompkins from the Sheriff’s Office, and our sailor volunteers from the USS Constitution.

The Pier 5 Association, Inc.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.